Ohio schools finally get a year without major changes in state testing platform

5:26 a.m. Tuesday, April 4, 2017 Local
Ty Greenlees
State education officials say 90-95 percent of Ohio students will take their state tests online this year. TY GREENLEES / STAFF

State testing for local schools is in full swing this week, but the process has been a little quieter than past years, because Ohio is finally using the same test platform in back-to-back years.

Ohio students had to take the Ohio Achievement Assessments in 2014, then the PARCC tests in 2015, followed by tests from the American Institutes for Research (AIR) in 2016.

Those AIR-based tests, now simply called Ohio’s State Tests, are back this year, and many students have already started. Beavercreek students got all of their state English tests out of the way in March, and the last Huber Heights students are finishing them today (Tuesday).

Dayton teachers union President David Romick said he didn’t hear much rumbling last month when students were taking English tests, “which tells me, it’s good not to have to learn a new system again. There did not seem to be issues with the (technology) platform,” Romick said.

The testing window opened Monday for the math, science and social studies tests. Schools have until April 14 to finish the English tests, and until May 12 to finish the other subjects.

Ohio Department of Education spokeswoman Brittany Halpin said one of the biggest changes this year is an increase in online testing.

“Ohio has moved from approximately 65 percent testing online in 2014-15, to approximately 80 percent in 2015-16, to what we expect to be 90-95 percent this spring,” Halpin said. “ODE staff continue to work with districts, but there have been no major issues reported at this point. Districts have acclimated to the online testing format.”

One of the big issues school districts deal with is scheduling the tests around spring breaks. Beavercreek got the English tests out of the way in March, went on spring break last week, and are giving all but middle school students this week off from testing before gearing back up next week.

Northmont schools spokeswoman Jenny Wood said her district decided to wait until returning from spring break this week to start testing.

Dayton’s school board had a long debate about test scheduling last year, as board member Joe Lacey worried that students wouldn’t have test material fresh in their minds if they tested right after spring break. This year, Dayton’s math, science and social studies tests won’t start until April 24, near the end of the testing period.

Many schools have testing going on every day for multiple weeks in April, but individual students take tests on a handful of those days, with each test session taking between 1 hour, 15 minutes, and 1 hour, 45 minutes.

In Kettering, for example, Beavertown Elementary has testing for three weeks from April 3-21. But third-graders only test four of those days (two parts of an English test and two parts of math). The school’s fourth- and fifth-graders test on six days, because they add either a science or social studies test.

For most elementary and middle school students, the state tests do not carry heavy consequences. The exceptions are most third-graders, who must achieve a “promotion score” on the state reading test (or an approved alternative test) to advance to fourth grade.

And students taking high school level classes currently must score 18 total points on the seven end-of-course exams to meet the primary graduation pathway. But that system is currently being reviewed by state education officials and is likely to see some changes.

Romick said teachers are thankful for the shorter tests and testing windows, calling that an “obvious improvement” for students compared with PARCC tests.

He said he still has concerns about how the test data is used, particularly in teacher evaluation. Romick supports a proposal by the state’s Educator Standards Board to change how student test performance is counted in evaluations, and he called for using test data to improve teachers’ classroom instruction.

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